CRAWFORD | Bellarmine's Davenport likes what he sees despite los - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Bellarmine's Davenport likes what he sees despite loss at Louisville

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Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport watches his team against Louisville. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport watches his team against Louisville. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — A rite of fall if you’re a Bellarmine basketball player is a November course in giant-killing. Or at least attempting it.

Occasionally, the Knights pull one off, or come uncomfortably close. They lost by seven at Cincinnati last season. They were down only five at the half at Duke several years back, and won at Xavier in 2010.

Coming into Sunday’s exhibition opener at Louisville, its first of three against Division I opponents in eight days (with Cincinnati and Indiana to follow), coach Scott Davenport just wanted to get his team acclimated to the “urgency” of play against an athletic, deep opponent.

The Knights, ranked No. 4 in the NABC preseason Division II rankings, trailed by just six at half, but by as many as 22 in the second half, before falling 71-55. Davenport feels like his players learned something.

“We got better today,” he said. “. . . I asked them what they would say to the media and George Suggs said, ‘Man, I love my team.’ I will follow his lead because I absolutely love this basketball team.”

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There’s a lot to like about this edition of the Knights. They don’t have the size of a Louisville, but they have more size than they’ve had in some time, and more than enough to be effective in NCAA Division II.

It starts with Josh Derksen, a 6-9 three-man from Australia. He has all the tools, can score off the dribble or from three-point range. He made 6 of 12 shots against Louisville and scored a game-high 20 points.

“He is really, really a talented, a very gifted basketball player,” Davenport said. “Josh Derksen is literally growing up right in front of our eyes. . . . He’s a really dynamic player. He can Euro step in there, he can shoot the three.”

But Bellarmine also has 6-10 George Suggs at power forward, and 6-10 Yasin Kolo, a redshirt senior from Goetingen, Germany, at center. Kolo sat out all last season for the Knights, but is no stranger to the KFC Yum! Center. He had 12 points and eight rebounds against the Cardinals when Hartford visited on Nov. 19, 2013.

On Sunday, he had eight points and two rebounds but played much of the game in foul trouble.

“I think he learned every second,” Davenport said. “You know, when he redshirted last year, it’s just not the same. You know you’re not going to play, and it’s just not the same. I’ll start 11 different guys these three exhibition games, but we’ll get him as much game-type experience as we can every second, because he can really stretch the floor and play.”

That size on the front is something new for Davenport, who has had smaller, but extremely skilled passing teams in the past. This will be his tallest team at Bellarmine, and perhaps the tallest the school has ever had.

“Absolutely,” Davenport said. “Not even close. The jockey colony at Churchill Downs would love to have (5-8) Michael Parrish and (5-9) Al Davis, but they’d have a hard time with Suggs and Derksen and Rusty Troutman is a 6-5 two-man who can really rebound the ball.”

Troutman finished with 11 points, as did Suggs.

The Knights shot just 32 percent and made just 5 of 22 three-pointers. That likely won’t happen a lot of nights for this team.

Nor will their free-throw struggles. The game would’ve been closer, but the Knights made just 18 of 28 free-throws and missed the front end of a handful of bonus attempts. Davenport was incredulous.

“Now, he (Rick Pitino) is in the Basketball Hall of Fame for a reason,” Davenport said. “When you can defend the free throw line like that, well, you ought to be in the Hall of Fame. This is the best free-throw shooting team I have ever coached in my life. It really is. We chart them every day. We chart them in individual instruction and pregame and they are the best. So it must be his Hall of Fame coaching that kept us 18 for 28 from the line and five front ends on the bonus. But we will get so much better from this experience. To a man, our players were thrilled.”

Pitino said he expects Bellarmine to be a Division II contender.

"I thought this would be a close game because they're a veteran team and we're an inexperienced team," Pitino said. "I think they have a great shot at being a Final Four team again. I think that they are a better free-throw shooting team than they were today. I think we did a very good job of switching. When you switch with them they can't get the ball to the right people and it hurts them. But they are one of the best passing and shooting teams in the nation. They're fun to watch and it's a great game for us because every underneath out-of-bounds play and every option they run it's either back-door or screen-to-screen. You have to be really alert, and that's why we switched so much tonight."

Next up for Bellarmine is an exhibition at Cincinnati on Nov. 7, followed by another at Indiana on Nov. 9.

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